Friday, 27 December 2013

MY TOP ELEVEN (Well, really twelve) OF 2013

In no particular order:
While I totally enjoyed KINKY BOOTS, there are only two musicals that I thought were really brilliant in 2013, all products of downtown non-profits.
     FUN HOME. Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori's brilliant musical about celebrating one's sexuality and dealing with the death of one's father is brilliantly written, composed and performed. Far and away the best musical of the year -- probably the best musical in many years.
     HERE LIES LOVE. David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's techno, disco musical about Imelda Marcos was a successful experiment with totally immersive theatre.
      WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT: BACHARACH REIMAGINED (New York Theatre Workshop). In general, I'm skeptical of jukebox musicals. This one, however, takes the wonderful songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David and turns them into a moving song cycle of love, loss and recovery. Kyle Riabko's arrangements are surprising and winning and he and his troupe of young singer-instrumentalists are impressive and winning. I came away with a new respect for Hal David as a lyricist.

     After years of seeing revivals of classics in London, I now try to catch most of the new work in New York. I'm not so interested in revivals, but…..
      ALL THAT FALL (59E59). Trevor Nunn found an effective way to stage this Samuel Beckett radio play and Eileen Atkins gave one of the best performances of the year.
     THE GLASS MENAGERIE (Broadway). John Tiffany's brilliant rethinking of the Tennessee Williams classic is both intelligent and deeply moving. Everyone -- Cherry Jones, Zachary Quinto, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Brian J. Smith -- is superb. I've seen this great play at least a dozen times. This is the best version by far.
     A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (Polonsky Shakespeare Theatre). Julie Taymor's beautiful production is visually ravishing but, surprisingly, a coherent, intelligent take on the oft-performed classic. The first production in the beautiful new headquarters of Theatre for a New Audience.

I wish the list of excellent new plays were longer. This has not been a banner year for new work.
     CHOIR BOY (Alliance Theatre, Atlanta). Tarrell Alvin McCraney's music-filled tale of a gay boy leading the choir at a prep school for African-American boys is more a study of friendship than of prejudice. A lovely play.
     BUYER AND CELLAR (Rattlestick). I'm not usually a fan of one-person shows, but Jonathan Tolins's delightful comedy about a gay man hired to staff Barbra's private shopping mall is sheer delight. Michael Urie is absolutely charming as the protagonist, his bitchy boyfriend, Barbra, her husband, and a few other characters. I've seen it twice and would go back. I'm happy to see that it is on most critics' ten best lists. It deserves to be.
     OLD FRIENDS (Signature). Horton Foote's study of the bickering elite of a small Southern town is good, old-fashioned playwriting performed brilliantly by a terrific cast led by Betty Buckley as a fascinating monster. Great acting all-round.
     FROM WHITE PLAINS (Fault Line Theatre at the Signature). Michael Perlman's well-crafted play shows us the aftermath of teenage bullying. Ten years later, a talented gay film-maker cannot get over the suicide of his high school best friend. Unfortunately he can't see how he is now being a bully.
AND HONORABLE MENTION TO -- TOO MUCH, TOO MUCH, TOO MANY ((Roundabout). One is left with a few too many unanswered questions, but Meghan Kennedy's play is deeply moving and eloquently written. The four actors couldn't be better, particularly James Rebhorn, who give us a harrowing picture of a man sinking into dementia.


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